Lionel Messi finally won a major international trophy with Argentina with a 1-0 win over defending champions Brazil in the final of CONMEBOL Copa America 2021 at the iconic Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday. (More Football News)
The Albiceleste thus captured their 15th Copa America title at a venue where they were handed a heart-breaking World Cup defeat by Germany in 2014. Argentina thus moved level with Uruguay for the most ever win in the continental tournament.
But the star of the night was surely Angel Di Maria, who scored a gorgeous 22nd-minute goal which helped Argentina end 28-year title drought. The result also meant that Selecao suffered their first Copa America defeat on home soil since a 1-0 defeat to Paraguay in 1949.
Argentina last won a major international trophy in 1993, the 36th edition of Copa America by defeating Mexico. They have since played four finals in 2004, 2007, 2015 and 2016 -- all losing. In between, Messi & Co also suffered that heart-breaking extra-time defeat in the 2014 World Cup final.
Brazil, who were handed the hosting rights at the last moment, entered the title clash as the favourites. They were undefeated, only drawing once in the tournament.
But Argentina, with free-agent Messi in sublime, form were confident for a shock win in Brazil. And an early goal from Di Maria, from a Rodrigo de Paul long pass was enough.
Bravely enough, Lionel Scaloni made five changes from the starting lineup that beat Colombia on penalties in the semi-final as Gonzalo Montiel, Cristian Romero, Marcos Acuna, Leandro Paredes and Di Maria replaced Nahuel Molina, Nicolas Tagliafico, Guido Rodriguez and Nicolas Gonzalez.
But Tite's Brazil were unchanged with Neymar getting a golden opportunity to win his first international title with Selecao. He missed the last edition in 2019, which was won by Brazil after defeating Peru at the same venue.
It was only the third goal Brazil conceded in the tournament. Neymar tried hard with dribbles and passes, but the Selecao barely threatened Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.
Tite had won its previous five matches in Copa America and scored goals in all of them.
Messi's performance in the final was not as impressive as in previous matches of the tournament, during which he scored four goals and had five assists.
He had a clear opportunity in the 88th minute, tried to dribble Ederson, but the Brazilian goalkeeper stopped him.
Earlier, before the start of the final, CONMEBOL announced both Messi and Neymar as the best players of the tournament, saying "It is not possible to choose only one (best) player because this tournament has two of them."
Messi entered the match with four goals and four assists, while Neymar had two goals and three assists.